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    By C. Edward Quinn July 5, 1981


    The New York Times Archives

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    July 5, 1981, Section 11, Page 21Buy Reprints

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    THE 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence form a fascinating cross section of late 18th-century America. Some were great men; some were not. A few were the best-known leaders in their states; others were in Philadelphia because the really powerful local leaders stayed home to form their state governments.

    Several who debated the question of independence never signed the Declaration; a few who did write their names on our proclamation of freedom just happened to be there when the document was presented for signing.

    Among the truly great leaders who signed the Declaration of Independence, one would have to include John and Samuel Adams and John Hancock of Massachusetts; Roger Sherman of Connecticut; Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris and James Wilson of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee and George Wythe of Virginia.


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    The young ages of the South Carolina signers - Arthur Middleton, 34 years old, Thomas Heyward Jr., 30, Thomas Lynch Jr., 27, and Edward Rutledge, 26 - show that they were younger sons sent to Philadelphia while their more prestigious elders undertook the construction of a government at home.

    Six of the signers showed their lasting involvement in the new national Government by participating in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and signing that charter of our Government: Roger Sherman of Connecticut; Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, James Wilson and George Clymer of Pennsylvania, and George Read of Delaware.

    Robert Livingston of New York, a member of the five-man committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, never signed it. On the other hand, Robert Morris and George Read both voted against independence, but then signed the document when the copy was presented on Aug. 2.

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    One of the signers, Lewis Morris, is a part of the heritage of what is now the Bronx, but was then Westchester County. Among the roles he played was that of county judge in 1777 and 1778. Of special note is Morris's presence at the Fourth Provincial Congress at White Plains. On July 9, 1776, a week after the Continental Congress had voted independence, and five days after the Declaration of Independence had been approved, this Provincial Congress released the New York delegates in Philadelphia from their standing instructions to abstain from voting on the question of independence. Morris, it would appear, served independence better by his presence at White Plains than would have been possible at Philadelphia.


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    Many individual signers are of interest in their own right. We all know of the scientific interests of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was also a fine violinist, frequently taking part in string quartet performances.

    Equally interesting, perhaps, is Dr. Benjamin Rush, whose heroism during the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia during 1793 endeared him even to his political enemies. Rush had also, during his years of medical study in Europe, grown interested in the plight of the mentally ill. It could hardly have occurred to him in his student days that one of his own sons would become demented after killing a fellow naval officer in a duel.

    Some of the signers had quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them less imposing and more appealing to us today. Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey teased his wife by playing with a pet mouse, and Benjamin Harrison of Virginia taught his cat to perform tricks. William Ellery of Rhode Island loved gardening, calligraphy and Greek.

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    Roger Sherman of Connecticut was famous for his brevity of speech; he once dedicated a bridge by walking out on it, returning to the speaker's stand and announcing, ''I think it will hold up all right.'' Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire must have puzzled his associates somewhat. Some describe him as crabby and stingy. But Benjamin Rush refers to Thornton as a teller of hilarious stories that occasionally embarrassed his more sensitive listeners.


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    There were personal tragedies too. There always are in civil wars. Benjamin Franklin's son, William, was the last Royal Governor of New Jersey, and a Tory till the day he died. Francis Lewis of New York lost his wife to the hardship of British imprisonment and a daughter married a British naval officer. Lewis Morris had a brother who was a brigadier in the British Army.

    Source : www.nytimes.com

    July 4th: How many people signed the Declaration of Independence?

    Some of the signers are world famous – among them Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams – and some are obscure.

    These are the 56 people who signed the Declaration of Independence

    Colman Andrews24/7 Wall Street

    0:00 0:53 AD

    Everybody knows that the Fourth of July celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the historic document by means of which the 13 American colonies severed their political connections with Great Britain and declared themselves to be the United States of America.

    Except that the Declaration wasn’t signed on the Fourth of July. The colonists formally declared their independence on July 2, which John Adams promptly called “the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” predicting that it “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”

    As Independence Day draws near, 24/7 Wall St. is taking a look at who the 56 signers of the Declaration were. We drew on sources such as USHistory.org, the website of the non-profit Philadelphia-based Independence Hall Association to compile our list.

    It was on July 4, however, that the Continental Congress approved the final text of the Declaration – after jointly making some 86 changes in the draft composed by Thomas Jefferson and four colleagues.

    Cooking out? America, you're grilling your burgers wrong and it could kill youDogs and fireworks:Scared pets 'think they're going to die' on the Fourth of July

    But that still wasn’t when this seminal document of our nation was signed. That happened, for the most part, on Aug. 2 – but at least five signers didn’t affix their signatures to the Declaration until the following weeks.

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    All those who signed the Declaration were delegates to the Second Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia. The Congress was a convention of representatives from the various colonies. The first one, held in 1774, sought to ease rising tensions between the British and the colonists, while safeguarding the rights of the latter.

    The second Congress, which met from 1775 through 1781, was more radical, and ultimately decided that full independence from Great Britain was essential. Thomas Jefferson was charged with overseeing the drafting of a declaration to that effect. (Jefferson, of course, went on to become our third president, and is in the top ten when historians rank every president.)

    The Congress also appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, which was already involved in battles with the British in what grew into the Revolutionary War – one of the most expensive wars in U.S. history.

    There’s little doubt what occasion Pennsylvania would claim in a listing of the most important historical event in every state.

    The majority of the delegates – all of them men – who signed the Declaration had been born in one of the 13 colonies, though a few were native to Great Britain or Ireland. Many were gentleman farmers, and many – sometimes the same ones – were attorneys. Most were well-to-do, though some lost their fortunes during the Revolutionary War or subsequently.

    Some of the signers are world famous – among them Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams – and some are obscure. The majority owned slaves – 41 of the 56, according to one study – though there were also ardent abolitionists among their number. Some came to bad ends; one lived to the age of 95.

    Whoever they were, one thing is certain: These 56 signers put their lives and livelihoods on the line for the cause of American independence, and without their actions we’d have nothing to celebrate as a nation – on the Fourth of July or any other date.

    Information about the signers of the Declaration of Independence was drawn from USHistory.org, which is the website of the non-profit Philadelphia-based Independence Hall Association, as well as from the websites of The Society of the Descendents of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, and the Encyclopedia Britannica.

    John Adams (1735-1826)

    • State: Massachusetts

    One of the most revered of the Founding Fathers, the man who was to become the first vice president and the second president of the United States (and father of the nation's sixth president, John Quincy Adams) was a noted attorney, an active member of the Continental Congress, and an outspoken opponent of slavery. In 1783, he helped develop, and signed, the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War.

    Samuel Adams (1722-1803)

    • State: Massachusetts

    A cousin of John Adams, Samuel Adams has been described as "an excellent politician, an unsuccessful brewer, and a poor businessman." (Despite his apparent lack of brewing success, the Boston Beer Company's popular Samuel Adams brand is named after him.) A leading advocate for independence and a close friend of writer and intellectual Tom Paine, Adams was known as an eloquent orator.

    Source : www.usatoday.com

    Signing of the United States Declaration of Independence

    Signing of the United States Declaration of Independence

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    Signing of the United States Declaration of Independence

    John Trumbull's 1819 painting, , depicts the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Second Continental Congress

    Date August 2, 1776

    Venue Independence Hall

    Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Coordinates 39°56′56″N 75°09′00″W / 39.948889°N 75.15°W

    Coordinates: 39°56′56″N 75°09′00″W / 39.948889°N 75.15°W

    Participants Delegates to the Second Continental Congress

    The 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence

    The signing of the United States Declaration of Independence occurred primarily on August 2, 1776, at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, later to become known as Independence Hall. The 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress represented the 13 colonies, 12 of which voted to approve the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The New York delegation abstained because they had not yet received instructions from Albany to vote for independence. The Declaration proclaimed the signatory colonies were now "free and independent States," no longer colonies of the Kingdom of Great Britain and, thus, no longer a part of the British Empire. The signers’ names are grouped by state, with the exception of John Hancock, as President of the Continental Congress; the states are arranged geographically from south to north, with Button Gwinnett from Georgia first, and Matthew Thornton from New Hampshire last.

    The final draft of the Declaration was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, although the date of its signing has long been disputed. Most historians have concluded that it was signed on August 2, 1776, nearly a month after its adoption, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.


    1 Date of signing 2 List of signers 3 Signer details 4 Legacy 5 See also 6 References 6.1 Citations 6.2 Sources

    Date of signing[edit]

    by Armand-Dumaresq (c. 1873) has been hanging in the White House since the late 1980s

    The Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, with 12 of the 13 colonies voting in favor and New York abstaining. The date that the Declaration was signed has long been the subject of debate. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams all wrote that it was signed by Congress on the day when it was adopted on July 4, 1776.[1] That assertion is seemingly confirmed by the signed copy of the Declaration, which is dated July 4. Additional support for the July 4 date is provided by the , the official public record of the Continental Congress. The proceedings for 1776 were first published in 1777, and the entry for July 4 states that the Declaration was engrossed and signed on that date (the official copy was handwritten).[2]

    In 1796, signer Thomas McKean disputed that the Declaration had been signed on July 4, pointing out that some signers were not present, including several who were not even elected to Congress until after that date.[3] "No person signed it on that day nor for many days after", he wrote.[4] His claim gained support when the were published in 1821.[5] The contained two previously unpublished entries about the Declaration.

    On July 15, New York's delegates got permission from their convention to agree to the Declaration.[6] The entry for July 19 reads:

    Resolved That the Declaration passed on the 4th be fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and stile of "The unanimous declaration of the thirteen united states of America" & that the same when engrossed be signed by every member of Congress.[7]

    The entry for August 2 states:

    The declaration of Independence being engrossed & compared at the table was signed by the Members.[7]

    In 1884, historian Mellen Chamberlain argued that these entries indicated that the famous signed version of the Declaration had been created following the July 19 resolution, and had not been signed by Congress until August 2.[8] Subsequent research has confirmed that many of the signers had not been present in Congress on July 4, and that some delegates may have added their signatures even after August 2.[9] Neither Jefferson nor Adams ever wavered from their belief that the signing ceremony took place on July 4, yet most historians have accepted the argument which David McCullough articulates in his biography of John Adams: "No such scene, with all the delegates present, ever occurred at Philadelphia."[10]

    Source : en.wikipedia.org

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